Lana, 18 months old, displaced with her family from Aleppo in a public shelter in the coastal town of Tartous, Syria. She is eating WFP food. Copyright WFP/Abeer Etefa
AMMAN – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) started today airlifting food for a total of 50,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people in Syria’s northeastern Al Hassakeh governorate as food deliveries by road are blocked and concern is rising about growing needs.
The first of 23 WFP-chartered flights from the Syrian capital of Damascus landed at Qamishli airport, bringing critically needed food rations including rice, lentils, oil, pasta, bulgar, canned food, wheat flour, beans, salt and sugar for 4,000 people.
Subsequent flights will carry rations for 50,000 people for one month, ready-to-eat foods, and other humanitarian assistance such as life-saving medicine to meet the immediate needs of new arrivals in the area.
In search of safety, thousands of conflict-affected families in northeastern Syria have fled to Al Hassakeh and Qamishli, both urban centres where chronic food shortages and high food prices are putting more families at risk of hunger each day. The crisis is exacerbated by the influx of refugees fleeing violence in the Iraqi city of Mosul taking refuge in these Syrian towns.
“The dire humanitarian situation in the governorate is rapidly deteriorating as more and more families are pushed further into food insecurity,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for the Syria crisis.
“WFP is seeing desperate families in Al Hassakeh who, in the absence of adequate humanitarian assistance, are resorting to dangerous ways of surviving,” said Hadi. “We are seeing moderate malnutrition amongst children and we urgently need access to their communities to prevent more children from falling victim.”
WFP has resorted to costly airlifts to rescue thousands of families from hunger because all roads into the area are blocked. Al Hassakeh has been blockaded for most of the last year.
In this time the border crossing between Turkey and Syria at Nusaybin was opened for deliveries of humanitarian supplies on two occasions. But without sustained road access WFP was forced to use emergency airlifts to Al Hassakeh from Erbil (in Iraq) in December 2013; and from Damascus in August 2013 and March 2014.
Syria is WFP’s most complex emergency worldwide. People are trapped by conflict and in inaccessible places. WFP hopes that a recently adopted UN Security Council Resolution will facilitate food deliveries to some 650,000 critically vulnerable people in hard-to-reach locations.
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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food in emergencies and working with communities to build resilience. In 2013, WFP assisted more than 80 million people in 75 countries.
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